In this section you’ll find participants’ accounts of responding to overdose and the use of take-home naloxone. The people and stories in this section were carefully selected to highlight the diversity in backgrounds and experiences. While this website is not able to tell every possible story of overdose and take-home naloxone in Australia, it can show just how different people and their experiences are. In the stories can be found details of the many important concerns and circumstances our participants negotiated in saving lives in the community.
This section does not include the experiences of all participants. As it focusses on personal experiences of overdose and take-home naloxone, participants who had not encountered overdose or used naloxone do not appear. Overall, 26 of the 46 people who consume opioids are included. The remaining 20 had not encountered opioid overdose or in one case was not able to recount such events in enough detail to create a story for the site.
The stories presented here rely on participant reports of overdose. Some experiences may not conform to medical definitions of overdose, and some responses described may not reflect medical advice.
While these narratives were written from the interview transcripts and rely on their own words, some aspects have been paraphrased to improve coherence and readability. In making these changes we have worked hard to remain faithful to participants’ original meaning and intentions. Some experiences may also be presented in other sections of the website, using more detailed quotations.
Preferred Name: Fraser
Age: Early 40s
Who is Fraser?
Fraser lives in an inner-west Sydney suburb. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: like both his parents, Fraser was born in Australia. Fraser’s primary source of income is a Commonwealth Newstart Allowance*. Fraser has completed take-home naloxone training and thinks it’s a ‘good thing’ overall. He feels it would be especially helpful for people coming out of jail.
Fraser describes an occasion when he was young and had just been released from jail. He injected heroin and smoked cannabis, and overdosed. He woke up while his friend smacking his face and ambulance paramedics were attending to him. He didn’t require naloxone or hospital treatment then, but he did on another occasion. He mistakenly took a large amount of heroin thinking it was cocaine. After his frightening experiences with overdose, Fraser would like to see take-home naloxone being widely promoted.
I don’t think the paramedics ended up giving me Narcan [naloxone] that time. They waited with me and made sure I had come back, then left me with my brother-in-law. They didn’t take me to hospital.
Another time, I hadn’t been using heroin at all for a while. I‘d been using cocaine, and I ran into a mate of mine who had a heap of what I thought was coke. He gave me a huge shot and I dropped [overdosed]. I had far too much heroin for someone who hadn’t been using it.
I remember I was given Narcan and my mate got out of there, leaving me with his girlfriend, because he was wanted by the cops. The ambulance and cops arrived at the same time. The effect of the Narcan was instant — bang, and you’re back — but I felt just as stoned, because of the amount of heroin I’d had.
I felt like I could overdose again, so I parked my arse near a hospital. Eventually I did start overdosing again, and after about 40 minutes, I went into the hospital for another dose of Narcan.
Overdosing is a really scary experience. It’s been many years since I overdosed or saw someone else overdosing, so I don’t really think about it these days, but I’m still careful to avoid it by injecting only half a dose if the heroin is strong. I inject some and feel the effect it’s giving me, and if it’s strong, I’ll stop and wait. I know I could overdose if I injected the rest.
Fraser described the growing availability of take-home naloxone as ‘a good thing’ and said ‘it’s going to save people’. Thinking about the importance of promoting take-home naloxone in the community, he suggested putting ‘an ad on the TV about it’ saying ‘have this at home and if you see someone [overdosing] down the street or in the pub, grab your kit and you can save a life.’
A number of our interviews point to the relationship between the criminal justice system and overdose. For example, Fraser (M, early 40s, NSW, non-prescribed opioids) recounts calling an ambulance to attend to the overdose of an acquaintance, and describes hiding in case police also attended.
It wasn’t that recent, but there was this guy who told me he’d been using a lot [of heroin] and I believed him. He had a shot and dropped. [We were] sitting there with all these drugs and money and I’m like, the telephone box is over there, and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got to get that phone, but I can’t leave him.’ I […] ran to the phone box and got an ambulance on the way, and ran back to him and made sure he was alive and partially breathing. Because I had [arrest] warrants at the time, I didn’t want to be around when the ambulance [and police] got there, so I had to sort of hide in the background.
In order to increase awareness of take-home naloxone, Fraser (M, early 40s, NSW, non-prescribed opioids) says that it should be more widely promoted.
I don’t know many [people who have take-home naloxone], no. I don’t know many people that have been [to the training] or have got it. I don’t think [my friend has] got one. Yeah, if they want to promote it, it’s a good thing and it’s going to save people. […] It’s not out there enough. You’ve got to put an ad on the TV about it and get people out there and tell them: ‘Have this at home and if you see someone down the street or in the pub, grab your kit and you can save a life’.